Can Acupuncture Help With Anxiety?

Acupuncture might be considered too alternative for some, but studies show that it's an effective tool for treating a variety of conditions. According to a study published in The Journal of Pain, acupuncture is successful in treating chronic pain. It's also proven to be beneficial for treating osteoarthritis and headaches, according to studies by the National Institutes of Health.

So how does it work?

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), energy called Qi ("chee") travels throughout the body along passages called meridians and regulates overall health, like blood in the circulatory system (via Everyday Health). Things like changes in environment, injuries, and stress can disturb the flow of Qi, leading to health conditions. Acupuncture works by inserting needles at certain points along these meridians, strengthening the balance of Qi.

According to Daniel Hsu, Doctor of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at New York AcuHealth Acupuncture in New York City, Qi can be thought of like a "metaphor for metabolic function." Acupuncture can work by producing painkilling chemicals, boosting the body's natural healing abilities, and triggering the part of the brain that manages emotions.

Is acupuncture effective for anxiety?

There are multiple studies that show acupuncture is effective for treating anxiety, and it's becoming an increasingly popular choice. According to a study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies, acupuncture treatments can result in less anxiety and better memory. It's been shown to reduce stress hormones, according to a study published in the Journal of Endocrinology. According to a study published in Medical Acupuncture, it's even proven effective in treating major depressive disorder in pregnancy.

"Acupuncture eases anxiety by regulating the nervous system, specifically by bringing the branches of the autonomic nervous system back into balance," says Ashley Flores, a licensed acupuncturist in Chicago who spoke to Health.

A benefit of acupuncture for treating anxiety is that it's an incredibly low risk treatment option (via Everyday Health). Unlike anxiety medications that can come with dangerous side effects, acupuncture has few to no side effects.

Since more than 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from anxiety, having treatment options beyond medication and psychotherapy just makes sense.